There may come a time when the party paying child or spousal support, or the party receiving either payment may have an interest in modifying the existing order. While this is not impossible to do, the process can be complicated — particularly when the other party is opposed to having it changed.
The most cost-effective method for making these changes is to have the two parties agree to the change, have the proper documents drawn up by a qualified family law attorney and submit them to the court for approval. When an agreement is impossible to reach, the necessity of working with a modification attorney in California becomes critical.
Reasons for Modifications in Child Support Payments
When an existing court order is in place for child support payments in California, there must be a change in circumstances after the original order was put in place. In most cases, the party paying child support will be expected to continue making payments until such time the child is no longer a full-time student at age 18 or 19. However, the parents may request a modification if certain changes occur in their financial status. Some changes may include:
- Change in income — when one of the parents has had an increase or a decrease in their income, this may provide the basis for a modification of child support in California.
- Time changes — in some cases, the change is in the amount of time a parent is spending with a child. If one parent is spending more or less time with the child than was originally agreed to, there may be a reason to modify the current order.
- Child’s needs — one of the primary reasons a person receiving child support payments may request a change is the child’s needs have changed. This could be health, education, or other changes which occurred after the initial child support order was put into place.
- Disability or retirement — when one parent becomes disabled or retires, there may be a need to change the amount they are paying for child support.
There are other times when a change may be warranted, you should speak with an experienced child support attorney regarding any change in your overall financial circumstances to determine whether the reason would be acceptable to the courts.
Reasons for Modifications in Spousal Support
Spousal support, more commonly known as alimony, modifications are handled in much the same way as a child support order. In some cases, the court may have ordered these payments to start and end on specific dates. Even when this is the case, there may come a time when one party requests a change in spousal support. Some common reasons a change may be requested include:
- Income changes — when the income for either party involved in the order changes, the court may hear a motion to change the order. This may occur due to a change in jobs, a decrease or increase in self-employment income, or a job loss.
- Cohabitation — if the receiving spouse remarries or begins living with a new partner, the paying partner may request a modification for spousal support payments. Remember, if the partner is living with a new partner, there must be definitive documentation supporting this argument, the court will not simply accept your word this is occurring.
- Tax changes — in some instances, a change in one party’s tax status may impact child support payment requirements. Speak with your spousal support lawyer regarding those changes before deciding how to move forward.
Forms Required for Child Support Changes
As with anything which is handled by the court, there are forms which will have to be filled out to make changes to child support payments. The forms which must be filled out include:
- Request for Order (Form FL-300)
You can determine which financial form must be used by reviewing another form which is available, (Form DV-570). Finally, you can the Information Sheet for Request for Order (Form FL-300-INFO) to learn how to fill out Form FL-300.
These forms can be confusing, and mistakes can cause time delays. Whether the parents agree on a change, or you are trying to make a modification request on your own, a family law lawyer should review these documents before they are filed with the courts.
Forms Required for Spousal Support Changes
While some forms for modification of alimony in California are the same as those used for modifications of child support, there are some which are different. For spousal support changes these forms are used:
- Request for Order (Form FL-300)
- Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150)
- Spousal or Partner Support Declaration Attachment (Form FL-157) – this form is optional but may help you prove the reasons why a modification is needed
- Declaration(Form MC-030) or an Attached Declaration (Form MC-031) would be used if more information is necessary to support your request
The same rule applies as the rules for child support modification. Any mistakes can cost you time, and additional money. Taking the time to have these forms reviewed by a family law attorney should be your first step.
Once Request For Modifications Are Filed
Until you have received an authorization from the court approving the changes to spousal support or child support, there should be no change to the amounts you are paying. This is important because you can be held in contempt if you begin paying less.
Another important thing you should be aware of: Even if you believe the change may only be necessary for a short time, you should request a modification immediately. Remember, the court will only approve changes once they have seen the agreements you have reached, or there has been a hearing to approve the changes. Changes will only go into effect when the court issues a new order approving the modification.
If you are considering requesting a modification of child support or alimony, The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, CFLS can help you with the process. Call our office at (619) 299-9780 or send us an email to arrange your free telephone consultation with our experienced attorney.